‘When mashgiach is applied to the Zoom experience, it becomes a symbolic metaphor of guidance and support’

Mashgiach literally means supervisor in Hebrew. The word is usually used to describe an individual who supervises the standards of kashrut or Jewish dietary observance in a kitchen where kosher food is prepared and served. But today, it has another meaning: the Zoom supervisor. All institutions should consider creating a Zoom Mashgiach to sustain and nurture online community in the age of the coronavirus, facilitating online Jewish life through managing muting, spotlighting, and monitoring the chat.

When mashgiach is applied to the Zoom experience, it becomes a symbolic metaphor of guidance and support. In the age of Covid-19, the Zoom Mashgiach is on the front lines ensuring the survival of Jewish continuity, maximizing the potential of learning and growth in each virtual session by enhancing the overall screen encounter. When the Zoom Mashgiach uses muting, spotlighting, and chatting in a successful way, it smooths the platform’s transition to a spiritual one on which communities of all faiths can flourish.

Within Zoom there are three primary functions the Zoom Mashgiach should master in order to maximize and contribute to the overall experience for all participants.They can be applied to an experience of learning such as a Zoom classroom, but they can also be applied to a Zoom service, lifecycle experience or any type of meeting.

Muting: The most important job of the Zoom Mashgiach is to mute participants when appropriate, monitoring who is talking and when, and muting others; multiple participants speaking at the same time distorts the sound. The Zoom Mashgiach is responsible for ensuring everyone participating in the virtual meeting can hear the presenter. If the Zoom Mashgiach is made the co-host, they can also help manage break out groups while the instructor or leader presents the content of the virtual experience.

Spotlighting: Spotlighting is a feature within Zoom allowing for the host or co-host to bring the speaker’s camera into full screen. When a participant is spotlighted, all participants in the session can fully see the video screen of the leader at that moment. The Zoom Mashgiach spotlights the individual responsible for leading the class, teaching the workshop, or facilitating the group. Since this person may shift periodically throughout the session, this requires featuring each participant screen at the right moment as needed to share, provide feedback, or have a thoughtful conversation. One delightful consequence of this feature is that pivotal moments and lifecycle events are captured up close, whereas if we were physically in person, we might not be able to see so many details and facial expressions.

Monitoring the Chat: The leader of the Zoom session needs to be focused on the content of the session, which the Zoom Mashgiach facilitates by managing the flow of the chat box. With younger elementary students, the teacher might want to only enable the chat for participants to dialogue with the host instead of each other. The chat can be a useful tool to communicate without interrupting the speaker, but can also get out of hand or become a place for audience members or participants to veer off topic and become distracted.

The Zoom Mashgiach is one way to respond Jewishly to Covid-19, but is a job responsibility that can be applied to any faith community, business, or organization. Muting, spotlighting, and monitoring the chat are all common features on Zoom, but essential ones in creating successful community online.

Jews have a history of adaptation. The community I’m honored to serve has worked cohesively, collaboratively, and systematically to bring our services, programs, and school online in a thoughtful way, and the role of Zoom Mashgiach has helped us to achieve a feeling of community online. By using muting, spotlighting, and chatting in an effective way, the Zoom Mashgiach is an important part of creating and sustaining virtual community in our response to Covid-19.

Dr. Eliyahu Krigel, CJE is the Director of Education at Herzl-Ner Tamid Congregation on Mercer Island, Washington.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

We all need a Zoom Mashgiach

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